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Secret Service official at center of explosive Jan. 6 testimony retires from agency

“I long-planned to retire and have been planning this transition for more than a year,” Tony Ornato told NBC News in a statement.
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A top Secret Service official who served in a political position in the Trump White House left the agency Monday for a job in the private sector.

Tony Ornato, who was an assistant director at the Secret Service, said his departure was planned more than a year ago, before explosive congressional testimony this summer about former President Donald Trump's actions on Jan. 6.

“I did retire today to pursue a career in the private sector,” Ornato told NBC News. "I retired from the U.S. Secret Service after more than 25 years of faithful service to my country, including serving the past five presidents. I long-planned to retire and have been planning this transition for more than a year."

Secret Service Special Agent Kevin Helgert said Ornato retired “in good standing."

Ornato led Trump's protective detail and made the unusual move to a political position as the White House deputy chief of staff for operations in 2019 before he returned to the Secret Service to help oversee its office of training.

Ornato became a key figure in the House Jan. 6 committee's investigation into the insurrection when former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified at a public hearing that Ornato had described to her an incident inside the armored SUV carrying Trump on Jan. 6, 2021. Hutchinson said Ornato described Trump’s lunging at the driver and insisting they go to the Capitol, where his supporters were gathering. Hutchinson’s account has been disputed by some people familiar with the matter.

U.S. Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Tuesday that Ornato testified before Hutchinson's public testimony on June 28.

“We had several individuals testify prior to the Hutchinson testimony including Ornato,” Guglielmi said in a statement. “Following the Hutchinson testimony, we reached out to the (January 6th) committee and indicated that our Personnel is available for follow-up questioning and we are awaiting their invitation.”

Ornato told NBC News that he plans “to continue cooperating with the January 6th committee and all other related investigations,” but did not respond to an inquiry about whether he has testified before the panel since Hutchinson’s bombshell testimony or if has plans to do so.

Ornato's departure from the Secret Services comes amid other high-level changes at the agency. James Murray announced his retirement as director last month, before the congressional uproar over missing Secret Service text messages from Jan. 6 became public. President Joe Biden last week appointed Kim Cheatle as Murray’s successor.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., a member of the Jan. 6 committee, said in an interview Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that the panel was looking into the missing text messages and would likely be able “to get answers to that” by the time it restarts public hearings next month.

Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari has said he was informed that many of the messages from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 had been erased “as part of a device-replacement program.”

Ornato said Tuesday that his counsel has "been in touch" with the Office of the Inspector General, and that "they discussed but have not yet settled on a mutually convenient date for us to speak."

He also tacitly disputed a media report that said he had retired two days before a planned meeting with the Office of the Inspector General.

"I was never scheduled to speak with the OIG on August 31," Ornato said.